The world is at “one minute to midnight” on climate change, warns the Prime Minister at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, as the world’s poorest nations condemn the G20’s limited climate progress. Meanwhile, India and the UK are to announce a new global solar grid connecting countries in different parts of the world, the UK’s largest private pension faces legal action over the slow pace of its divestment from fossil fuels, and pledges by the world’s top asset managers to cut emissions are criticised for not going far enough. It’s the Good With Money weekly newsbrief.
COP26: World at “one minute to midnight”
The world is at “one minute to midnight” having run down the clock on combating climate change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned.
Speaking as world leaders arrived for the landmark COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Mr Johnson said governments must now move from “aspiration to action” to slow global warming. He added the summit was a “critical” moment for him, and that an ambitious outcome was still “in the balance.”
If countries don’t quickly set stronger emissions targets, the world is set to warm by a devastating 2.7°C by 2100, according to a new United Nations report. This far exceeds the goal of keeping warming below 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C, that was laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
For the first time, Mr Johnson also confirmed he did not want to see a controversial proposed coal mine in Cumbria go ahead. “I’m not in favour of more coal,” said the prime minister. “But it is not a decision for me, it is a decision for the planning authorities.”
Poor countries at COP26 condemn G20’s limited climate progress
The rich nations of the G20 are failing poorer countries by not agreeing a climate plan that will ensure their people’s survival, leading figures at the COP26 climate talks have said.
A group representing more than a billion of the people most at risk from severe climate change said they are “extremely concerned” and had hoped more would be achieved at the recent G20 summit in Rome.
They said the prospect of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a threshold that scientists say is a “planetary boundary” – was slipping away as the UN conference opened in Glasgow.
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, which represents 39 countries, said: “From what I’ve seen it appears we are going to overshoot 1.5C. We are very concerned about that. This is a matter of survival for us.”
Meanwhile, a new report by scientists from China, US and Europe reveals up to a third of the world’s projected population (three billion people) could be exposed to temperatures on a par with the hottest parts of the Sahara by 2070.
What is COP26 and why does it matter?
India and UK to launch global solar power grid
India and the UK are to announce a new global solar power grid connecting countries in different parts of the world at the COP26 talks in Glasgow.
The project, known as the “Green Grids Initiative,” is being run by the International Solar Alliance, which was launched by India and France at the 2015 Paris climate conference to promote solar energy.
Although solar energy is becoming cheaper than climate-damaging alternatives, countries cannot rely on it at night and must fall back on fossil fuels. This is especially the case in countries like India, where demand for power is soaring.
The new project is based on the idea that the sun is always shining in some part of the world. It aims to create a global grid that will transfer the sun’s power from one place to another, said Ajay Mathur, director general of the International Solar Alliance.
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UK’s largest private pension faces legal action over fossil fuels
The £65 billion Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK’s largest private-sector pension plan, is facing legal action over claims it is not acting fast enough to divest its investments from fossil fuels.
Academics, who are members of the USS, have lodged a claim against the organisation in the UK High Court.
Legal documents lodged at the court say: “USS has failed to divest from fossil fuels, despite the detrimental financial impact to scheme members, and it has failed to adopt any credible plan for use of shareholder voting rights to decarbonise other companies in its portfolio.”
The action is spearheaded by academics Neil Davies, from Bristol University, and Lawrence McGaughey, of King’s College London, but was funded by about 1500 staff from universities across the UK.
Find out how to good-ify your pension with the Good Guide to Pensions
Top asset managers’ pledges to cut emissions ‘not enough’
A group of the world’s largest asset managers have pledged to cut carbon emissions by between 30 and 65 per cent in the next eight years – but critics say they must go further.
Around 40 asset managers, including Abrdn, Schroders, Aviva Investors, Fidelity International, Axa Investment Management, DWS and Legal & General Investment Management, have set out new interim targets as part of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative.
The pledges largely focus on cutting emissions by either 2025 or 2030, and on the percentage of their portfolios to be managed in line with science-based targets by the end of the decade.
However, critics say the targets are not robust enough and called on the funds industry to take faster action to cut emissions and get tougher on carbon-intensive companies.